Day 6

Average Women with Average Rage: Three comics mix stand-up with midterm election night results

As Americans gather to watch the results of the midterm elections, three comedians in New York City will spend the evening on stage, cracking jokes, relaying election results and generally trying to tamp down the anxiety voters are feeling.

'It's too much Wolf Blitzer, you need more standup comics'

Comedians Leah Bonnema (left), Negin Farsad (right) and Ophira Eisenberg (right). (Phil Provencio / Bret Hartman / Dan Dion)

The U.S. midterm elections are just around the corner — and many Americans are still feeling the after-effects from the presidential election on Nov. 6 2016.

But for three comedians, this Nov. 6 will be different.

On election night, Negin Farsad, Ophira Eisenberg and Leah Bonnema will be on-stage at the New York Comedy Club in Manhattan's East Village.

Their show is called Average Women with Average Rage, and they're promising to deliver a kind of comedic antidote to whatever midterm results American democracy throws their way.

They joined Day 6 host Brent Bambury from New York City.

Brent Bambury: So here's the set up: three women walk into a comedy club on election night. Who wants to take a shot at that?

Ophira Eisenberg: Yeah, I mean this seemed like the perfect companion show to an election night. We all are filled with rage, but because we are average women we're only actually allowed to have an average amount of rage.

Negin Farsad: But can I just say that the rage level in general in the United States has increased like, what, 25-fold in the last two years? So our average level of rage is actually quite high.

Leah Bonnema: Yeah, it's like the mean. What is it? The mean, the median, the mode — it's gone up so high that the average rage is like 100 percent rage all the time.

BB: But the word average appears twice in the title of your show. So, Ophira, why are you embracing this averageness?

OE: You know, I know who I am. I grew up privileged with the ability to get a higher education. So I can walk around with an average amount of rage.

BB: You're an average privileged person with an average amount of rage.

NF: And I'm just like your average Muslim lady in the United States. Super, like all the other regular Muslims hanging out in America.

A lot of people spend time alone watching cable tv, going insane. It's too much Wolf Blitzer, you need more stand-up comics.- Negin Farsad

BB: So a kaleidoscope of averageness here this morning.  So why bring people together in a comedy club? This is a deeply charged political moment. I keep hearing people saying: this is the most important election of our lifetimes. Why go to a comedy club?

NG: You know the thing is, like, the last election was not a fun one.

LB: It was heartbreaking.

NG: I was actually with Leah. We were performing in front of a sobbing audience, and it was not handled well. And we want to turn back time and like, manage expectations, give people laughs. You know, like a lot of people spend time alone watching cable TV, going insane. It's too much Wolf Blitzer, you need more stand-up comics. Fewer Wolf Blitzers!

BB: But does that mean you will be feeding results to the audience? Is someone going to be telling you what's happening?

LB: Yeah. We're each going to do long sets, separately, and then in between — before and after — we're going to go on together and make announcements. Ideally make some happy jokes, maybe make some jokes through tears.

Image of a poster announcing The New York Comedy Festival event called Average Women with Average Rage, with Negin Farsad, Leah Bonnema and Ophira Eisenberg. (New York Comedy Festival)

BB: This sounds like an incredible emotional journey. Hearing you describe 2016, it sounds to me like you're prepared for the worst. How are you going to do that?

LB: I think we're women, so we have to be prepared for the worst.

NG: We're also going to have barrels of grain available, bottled water and some canned soups at the comedy club, should anything go down.

OE: I will be also in the corner after the show, as a Canadian citizen explaining to people how they could possibly ... like first visit Canada, here's how the metric system works, you know, just in case.

NG: Ophira has to explain to people in the audience what health care is because we actually have no idea. It's really sad.

LB: Like: sew your own leg back on, it's not that bad.

BB: So, Ophira, as a Canadian living in the United States, do you have any concerns that ICE will be waiting for you when you come off stage?

OE: Well then I guess you could say my career has really taken off. You know, if  ICE finds me I feel like I've done my due diligence as a comedian.

Even if they don't agree with you on everything, they can laugh at you talking about your mom. And that is something that will bring us all together.- Negin Farsad

NG: The other fun thing about this week is that Ophira has a birthright citizen child, right?

OE: That's correct.

NG: And I myself am a birthright citizen child.  And so it's a particularly resonant time, there's a lot to get people riled up about.

BB: Has your relationship with rage changed over the last two years?

NG: This has all been precipitated by a certain amount of rage — but then the other thing is that there is an incredible amount of delight in seeing people be really politically and electorally involved and civically engaged.

I mean, literally, friends of mine who never voted or cared or knew — now they're like: 'So who are you voting for for county sheriff?' You know what I mean?  You're like: 'What? I didn't even know you knew that that was a part of the ballot.' And so, there's more voting, less brunching, and more protesting.

BB: But the country is so divided. You're doing comedy in a very charged, divisive political environment. On one level if you go into political stuff no matter what you say 40 per cent of the country's going to want to pick a fight with you over it. So do you think any of those people will be in your audience in the East Village?

OE: In the East Village of New York, going to a show — like, pre-purchasing tickets to a show — called Average Women with Average Rage? I hope so.

NG: Recently I got an e-mail from a Republican who listens to my podcast and  my comedy, and he was like: do you have other Republicans that listen? And I was like: maybe? You know, there's people everywhere that want to laugh and even if they don't agree with you on everything, they can laugh at you talking about your mom. And that is something that will bring us all together.

LB: And not only that, I feel like we've already experienced performing in situations with people that we have to win over. And then you get these compliments back that are, you know, double-sided compliments where they say: I don't usually like 'female' comedy, but I liked you. I have one other Jewish friend, and you seemed okay as well. You know, you get all these weird things, but any little tiny pathway in.

NG: Yeah, it's a little chink in the armour.

People want to ... laugh during what might be, you know, the beginning of the apocalypse.- Leah Bonnema

BB: The last 10 days have been, you know, tragic and horrible and there's so many terrible things that you can focus on. But you don't have to think back very far to remember that just a little while ago President Trump walked up the stairs to Air Force One with toilet paper stuck to his foot. So I just want to ask you if you have a favourite comedic moment of the Trump era.

OE: Oh my goodness, a favourite? I mean, I've never framed it that way in my mind, ever.

NG: No. They've all seemed just like a sad clown moment.

OE: I mean, you know, just based on the visuals — not so much based on the stuff coming out of his mouth or through his Twitter account, because that to me always reads as quite scary — it is the videos and the memes of his hair blowing. It's a new level of unattractive.

NG: I have to say the Instagram photo with the taco bowl. Because it was the most ridiculous attempt at building a bridge with people that he's also trying to expel from the country. So I just thought it was the most ham-fisted and ridiculous moment.

BB: What do you believe your audience will be looking for the most on this particular, very important, midterm election night?

OE: I think connection and levity.

LB: Like what Ophira said: people want to be with people who are like-minded and laugh during what might be, you know, the beginning of the apocalypse.

NG: And I don't even think people want to be with people who are like-minded I think they want to be with people that are delightful and open, whatever your political ideology. So, we welcome that in the audience.

OE: And if people are on a first date during the show, I think they might last.

NG: Oh, great first date night.

LB:  Great first date night.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity. To hear the full interview with Negin Farsad, Ophira Eisenberg and Leah Bonnema, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.


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